OCTOBER 4 2015

Our Hearts Are Restless Until They Find Their Rest in Thee

[I. Introduction] “I was weeping in the most bitter contrition of my heart, when I heard the voice of children from a neighboring house chanting, "take up and read; take up and read." I could not remember ever having heard the like, so checking the torrent of my tears, I arose, interpreting it to be no other than a command from God to open the book and read the first chapter I should find. Eagerly then I returned to the place where I had laid the volume of the apostle. I seized, opened, and in silence read that section on which my eyes first fell: "Not in revelry and drunkenness, not in licentiousness and lewdness, not is strife and envy; but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts." No further would I read, nor did I need to. For instantly at the end of this sentence, it seemed as if a light of serenity infused into my heart and all the darkness of doubt vanished away. “

So writes Augustine, one of the great men of God, in his book Confessions, written in the late fourth century. In this quote he relates his conversion to Christ. Augustine was empty and depressed, a condition many experience when they live life apart from God. He was so discouraged about his life that he wept a “torrent of tears.” God must often bring us to great sorrow and despair before we will come to Him because we are a stubborn and selfish people.

Some children in the neighborhood were playing a game and, as part of the game, they chanted a phrase. It was “take up and read, take up and read.” He would have heard it in Latin: “Tolle lege, tolle lege.” He understood this to be a command of God to him. God sometimes speaks through children! So, having a separate copy of the book of Romans, he picked it up and read out of chapter 13: “Not in revelry and drunkenness, not in licentiousness and lewdness, not is strife and envy; but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.”

This is not a salvation passage. That is, Paul did not intend for this verse to provide direction for the lost to find Christ. He meant it as direction for the immature Christian. But the word of God is powerful! The Spirit took those words and made them alive in Augustine’s heart! As I just read, he wrote “No further would I read, nor did I need to. For instantly at the end of this sentence, it seemed as if a light of serenity infused into my heart and all the darkness of doubt vanished away. “

The light infused him and he was born from above. In this classic book he reveals his journey from unbelief to faith. Behind Augustine are a succession of desperate searches for fulfillment: excessive pleasures, false religions, philosophy, dissipation and distractions—futilities that left him so weary of himself and feeling empty. 

Augustine understood the reason for his emptiness and he reveals the reason on the very first page of his book. He writes in a short little prayer: You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.” 

The wisest man who ever lived, other than the Lord Jesus, wrote of experiences and thoughts very similar to those of Augustine. Some of these will be our Scripture reading this morning. Turn to Ecclesiastes chapter 2:1-17. 

[II.] Man seeks to satisfy himself with many things. There was a rock band by the name of Van Halen that had a number one hit in 1988. The song was When Its Love. The lyrics begin with these words:

everybody's lookin' for somethin'
Somethin' to fill in the holes
We think a lot but don't talk much about it
'Till things get out of control.

Now, that band had a large number of bad songs. They were musically talented but dwelt on hedonism in many of their songs. But they were really on to something in writing that song. They describe the human condition. “Everybody is looking for something, something to fill in the holes.” Many have a sense that there is a hole in our innermost being that needs to be filled. And, many begin seeking to fill it. In the words of Van Halen, everyone is looking. Yet…we don’t talk much about it. Solomon talked about it. Augustine talked about it. But, is anyone listening? I invite you this morning to listen.

[A.] Man seeks to satisfy himself with pleasure. Solomon had this experience in verse 1.     I said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.” But behold, this also was vanity. When he writes “vanity” he does not mean self-absorbed. He means “without value, meaning, or purpose.” Solomon was seeking satisfaction and he tried pleasure. What he discovered was that it did not have value in satisfying his deepest longing. There was no purpose to it “under the sun.” That phrase, under the sun, occurs over and over in the book of Ecclesiastes. It tells us that the whole book is written from the perspective that what is “under the sun” is all there is. In other words, what is life like if this is all there is? 

•    Well, for one thing, seeking pleasure becomes a meaningless exercise. 
•    The experience of pleasure satisfies only the carnal nature, not the spiritual aspect of who we are. 
•    It leaves us empty in our spirit.
•    Even the carnal satisfaction is only fleeting. Soon after one is satisfied they are searching for more; often, more intense pleasure. This is true regardless of the source whether food, sex, speeding in a car, thrill rides, drugs, what have you.

Take skateboarding. There are 375,000 injuries each year from skateboarding half of which require hospitalization. As an activity that contributes to injury it is second only to bicycling which  results in 1.2 million injuries. That means there are three times as many injuries due to bicycling than skateboarding. So, which is more dangerous? The answer is skateboarding. What I left out is that there are 90 million bicyclists but only 6  million skateboarders. That means that if you ride a bicycle you have a 1.3% chance of being injured in a year. But if you skateboard, you have a about a 7% chance of being injured and a 3 ½% chance of being seriously injured. Put another way, you are six times more likely to get injured on a skateboard than a bicycle. All for the pursuit of pleasure.

A far more disturbing statistic is that of drug use. Over 40,000 people die annually from drug use. Sadly, the daughter-in-law of one of our members here recently died from a drug overdose. The actual figure of 40,393 means that a person dies every 13 minutes in the US from a drug overdose. The vast majority of those people thought that they were taking a safe amount.  All for the pursuit of pleasure.

[B.] Solomon continues in verse 2:      I said of laughter, “It is mad …”
Americans are often seeking laughter. Jimmy Fallon, one of the most successful comedians gets paid $100,000 per episode for his nightly comedy show. But he still earns less than twenty other comedians. Comedy is big money. Bill Cosby’s net worth is 350 million dollars. Jerry Seinfeld, the most successful comedian of all time, has a net worth of 800 million dollars. People are willing to pay comedians a great deal of money to make them laugh. 

Yet, Solomon says that laughter is madness. What does he mean? Madness is the condition of mind where a person believes and does things without a reason. If this life is all there is then laughter is madness. Yes, laughter makes you feel good, but mostly just while you are laughing. When the laughter ends the feel-good ends. The despondent feeling that one may trying to escape by seeking laughter may seem even lower once the laughter ends. Several comedians themselves have committed suicide. 

In the long run laughter does not “fill in the hole.”
[C.] In verse 3 Solomon writes, “I searched with my heart how to cheer my body with wine—my heart still guiding me with wisdom…” 

Wine can cheer a person. The Bible tells us that God has allowed man to create “wine to gladden the heart of man.” (Psalm 104:15) Although this is true, there are many more warnings in Proverbs about the dangers of wine than the virtues of it. Of course, any alcoholic beverage could be substituted for “wine” and these things would be true:

•    It is a mocker (20:1)
•    It leads one astray (20:1)
•    Those who love it will never be rich (21:17)
•    It brings strife, sorrow, and woe (23:29-30)
•    It cause one to say things that are perverse (23:33)
•    It cause you to desire more of it (23:35)
•    It leads one to ignore the afflicted (31:5)

We have all known people whose lives were ruined by an abuse of alcohol. It is an addictive substance to those who are so predisposed and it is evident that many are. According to the Center for Disease Control excessive use of alcohol results in 88,000 deaths and 2.5 million years of potential life lost (YPLL) each year in the United States. That is one life lost every six minutes! Three people have died from alcohol abuse since I started speaking!

Yet, Solomon in Ecclesiastes was not writing about the abuse of wine. He is writing about the proper use of wine. Even that is vanity. It doesn’t fill the hole.

In these first three verses he relates things that may be misused quite easily – pleasure, mirth, and wine. Beginning in verse 4 he begins to relate his experiences with things that are generally considered virtuous.

[D.] Good works do not bring satisfaction. In verses 4 through 6 Solomon records some of the great works that he did. He built houses, parks, and gardens. He planted vineyards and fruit trees. These would be enjoyed by himself but also by his children, his servants, and his visitors. These were good things that he did.

There is a satisfaction in building things and creating things. I bought a desk from Ikea once. It took me eight hours to put it together. Partly because, after I had been working on it for three hours, I realized that I was building it in the wrong order. So, I had to take a good deal of it apart and start over.  At the time I was earning $48/hr. It costs me about $380 in labor to build that desk and $400 in frustration. Still, it felt good to finish it. 

Solomon realized that, if this life is all there is, his great works were meaningless. Being industrious will bring temporary satisfaction and it is better than not contributing to society. But, unless there is more to life than what is under the sun, it is vanity and it will not fill the hole.

[E.] Wealth does not bring satisfaction. In verse 7 and the first half of verse 8 Solomon reveals his wealth. Yet, this too was vanity. Money and possessions do not satisfy the heart of man. If anything, they make us more aware of our emptiness. Suicide rates are highest among the wealthiest nations. Moreover, they are higher among the wealthiest individuals. Money does not fill the hole.

[F.] Entertainment does not bring lasting satisfaction. In the second part of verse 8 he writes: “I got singers, both men and women, and many concubines, the delight of the sons of man.” The points we saw regarding comedy and laughter apply equally to other forms of entertainment. More is spent on the music industry than on comedy. People are searching for satisfaction and music will bring some…for a time. Then the time passes, as does the satisfaction. Entertainment does not fill the hole.
[G.] Lastly, he speaks of wisdom in verses 12 – 17. Wisdom is what brought Solomon fame. This is that for which he is known. In our family devotions we have been going through the book of Proverbs (also written by Solomon) during the weeknights for the past several weeks.  We have observed how, over and over again, he lauds the virtue of wisdom. More than once he reveals it as the way to life itself. In fact, every Proverb except one proclaims the virtue of wisdom, understanding, or knowledge and even that one (Proverbs 26) speaks of the detriment of folly and so, by implication, it too raises up wisdom.

When Solomon first became king the Lord appeared to him in a dream and told him to ask of him what he willed. Solomon asked for wisdom.     It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this.
(1 Kings 3:10 ESV)
Clark told me the other day that Solomon should have asked for an unlimited number of wishes. Then he could have asked for wisdom second. Well, Solomon hadn’t gotten the wisdom yet. That is why he didn’t ask that! That is not really the response to Clark’s statement. When you read the passage it seems that the Lord’s intention was to grant only one request. Asking for an unlimited number of wishes is more than one request by its very definition. Therefore, if Solomon had actually asked that the Lord may have said, “Sorry, Solomon, I will not grant that. And you just used up your one request.” Then we wouldn’t have Proverbs or Ecclesiastes!

Wisdom pleases the Lord!

Proverbs 8:11 states that wisdom is better than anything else!

Here in Ecclesiastes he says that wisdom is vanity. How can this be? Isn’t this a contradiction? No. Remember, Ecclesiastes is written from the perspective of a life lived ‘under the sun,” that is, a life lived with no hope of life afterward. Solomon is saying that if this life is all there is then even wisdom, the best thing that you can have, is vanity.

Even wisdom will not fill the hole.

Man seeks to satisfy himself with many things: 

•    Pleasure
•    Laughter
•    Alcohol
•    Good works
•    Wealth
•    Entertainment
•    Wisdom
But none of these things fill the hole.

[III.] There is only one thing that will satisfy. There is something that is greater and better than wisdom. It is love. 

Besides Jesus, there was another man whose intellect was greater than Solomon’s. That would have been Adam before the fall. Before Adam fell he had a mind that was untouched by sin. His creative power can be seen in his naming all the animals and then remembering all the names that he invented. Yet, despite his great mind the Lord said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” He had a great mind, but things were still not good.

In the book of Proverbs four words are used interchangeably. They are wisdom, knowledge, understanding, and prudence. Knowledge and wisdom are quite different in modern English. But in biblical usage they are nearly the same because when the Bible refers to knowledge it seldom means an accumulation of facts as it does contemporaneously. It means knowledge of God’s will – knowledge about living right.

The apostle Paul tells us in I Corinthians 13:2 that even if he had all knowledge but not love then he is nothing. Without love we are nothing.

Our God is a God of wisdom. But He is not called wisdom. He is called love. God is love. He is identified as love itself because this his predominate character.

Love is the only thing that will satisfy. But human love comes to an end. That is the testimony of a thousand love songs and ten thousand poems. And those loves that do not come to an end will still disappoint.

We were made for love and there is only one love that truly satisfies. It is the love of God. To say that only the love of God satisfies is to say that only God satisfies. 

Augustine was right when he wrote, You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.” 
What everyone is searching for is God, though not everyone knows this. There is only one thing that separates the searching soul from God. Sin. God is too holy to countenance sin. Yet, because of His love He has provided a way for all sin to be forgiven. It is through, and only through, the Lord Jesus Christ. If you would like guidance on finding the rest that you have been looking for just let anyone here know and we would be most privileged to point you towards that rest. A rest that is available and ready to be experienced this very day.

To the one who is already a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the one who found rest at one time – it may be that you lost that rest. These truths are just as meaningful to you. Let us close by reading a passage from the apostle Paul.

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
(Ephesians 3:14-19 ESV)

You see, the Ephesian Christians still lacked certain things. 

•    They lacked strength. 
•    They lacked comprehension. 
•    They lacked the experience of knowing Christ’s love.
•    They were not yet filled with all the fullness of God.

Hence, Paul prayed for these things on their behalf. They had been distracted by other matters. This was the purpose for which they had been called – to experience and enjoy the one thing that satisfies: God Himself. To be filled with the fullness of God.

This is the purpose for which we have been called. Let this be our prayer. Be filled with the fullness of God and find rest!